Having clear memories of watching The Ripper, Blood Cult, and its sequel Revenge on VHS back in the 80s when I worked at a video store, I must have been feeling really nostalgic the day I purchased this 3-DVD set. After all, director Christopher Lewis released all three of these direct-to-video movies in less than a year….
THE RIPPER (1985)
Looking about as professional as a 1982 Greg Kihn video on MTV, shot-on-video movie The Ripper begins as a period piece in late 1800s London, with Jack the Ripper slaughtering a female victim.
Fear not (believe me, you won’t at all watching this movie), for it’s just a story being told by a college professor giving a lecture. He teaches a class on true crime, and seems to be the object of one male student’s major man crush, which didn’t even exist in the 80s (guys with man crushes were just called cocksuckers).
The professor’s girlfriend is a jazzercise instructor. We meet her in a full dance class scene set to a synthpop song that sounds like something Laura Branigan would have recorded. Okay, now I see why I bought the DVD—and why everyone called me cocksucker back then.
Running way too long at an hour and forty minutes, The Ripper has nothing going for it except gruesome disembowelments. The professor gets his hands on a ring that may have belonged to the real Jack the Ripper. He starts having nightmares of women being murdered and gutted. Every time he wakes up, he learns there was a real murder that mirrors the one in his dream.
Meanwhile, his male student calls him regularly to let him know what horror movies are on television, essentially serving as his TV Guide (that’s a magazine we used to have back in the 80s that listed every single show that was playing on all 7 channels for an entire week!). The student’s girlfriend finds it quite odd that he calls his professor every night while shirtless….
To distract her from her concerns, the student has her watch the VHS tape of—Blood Cult! Groan.
Occasionally, there’s another butchering dream sequence—there’s absolutely nothing scary about them—and eventually, the killer comes after the professor’s girlfriend. It turns out it’s the real Jack the Ripper back from the dead, and he’s played by…Tom Savini. Damn. He looks even sexier with devil eyes.
BLOOD CULT (1985)
An early entry in the “home video horror” genre, Blood Cult begins with a shower scene kill—a hack, blood splash on wall, rinse and repeat formula. Does wonders for the hair.
This is followed by scrolling text telling us the sheriff is on the case because it’s election season—information we get all over again in dialogue a few minutes later.
There have been multiple murders on a college campus. The sheriff is convinced it’s the work of a cult…or one of those pesky Dungeons & Dragons geeks. He investigates with the help of his librarian daughter and her boyfriend. Good thing the sheriff doesn’t suspect it might be the work of a pesky Dungeons & Dragons geek….
After some boring kills, fingers found in a salad at the college cafeteria, a trip to a farm where signs of cult worship have turned up, and more investigating, the sheriff heads into the woods and witnesses a satanic cult ritual. He’s knocked unconscious and wakes up in the hospital.
Was he just imagining what he saw? He doesn’t think so. He catches the killer in action and is horrified by the truth before him – a twist we saw coming, especially since we were shown the truth in the cult ritual scene. And no, it’s not the Emperor.
The sheriff is even more horrified at what the killer does next in the name of the cult!
This direct sequel picks up right where the first film left off. I must say, you don’t even need to see Blood Cult to appreciate it—and there’s actually something to appreciate. While it’s no masterpiece and despite its shitty title, Revenge is much better than Christopher Lewis’s first two, and he finally seems to tap into the formula for making an 80s VHS horror movie that may someday deserve cult status.
Christopher Lewis never made another horror film.
Anyway, the improvement in acting alone is immediately noticeable, as is the tone of horror, with a reporter covering the events that ended Blood Cult getting into a car with an expert on the scene to probe him about the rumors of a cult killing spree…and realizing too late that she’s trapped in a car with one of the leaders of the cult!
Yeah, there’s no real mystery here. A bunch of powerful men are in on the cult and meet about it regularly—and one of them is John Carradine! That dude totally whored himself out to crap horror in the 80s. Thank God.
Meanwhile, the brother of the boyfriend from the first movie has returned home to try to figure out who killed his brother. Casting is everything. These two are supposed to be brothers….
Brothers from different planets, I’d say. This brother even looks fine from behind….
Also surfacing in a major role is the woman who lived at the farm from the first movie. Revenge proves the actress deserved to get a starring role. She rox. Now, her character is being terrorized—by threatening phone calls and some dude on a motorcycle—to move the fuck off her farm (because naturally, it’s where the cult holds all its rituals and they want the land).
So she and the hot brother team up to try to discover the truth (that we already know) about who is behind the cult, visiting the scenes of the continuing murders. The brother also visits the sheriff, who’s now in a mental institution.
Of all three Christopher Lewis slashers, the death scenes are the best here. There’s a great hot tub scene complete with killer POV, a dude’s tight ass in a sheer wet Speedo, and a dastardly little twist.
There’s even one that makes it clear that someone in the cult has supernatural powers—a chick is simply torched with the wave of the killer’s hand!
And speaking of the supernatural, here is where Revenge flips a finger at the slasher genre. When our heroes witness the obligatory satanic ritual, it feels like we’re getting just another lame repeat of the end of Blood Cult. Hell, no! This time, these fuckers turn into demons!
Awesome. If you only watch one Christopher Lewis film, Revenge is the way to go.